Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Kick Ass Heroine from a Kick Ass Writer

Having read Chuck's non fiction books, and being a devotee of his blog, I had high expectations for this novella. I was not disappointed.

This was a rip-roaring, roller-coaster of a story that grabbed me at the start and didn't let go until the very last page; my kids went hungry, my husband's work shirts were not washed, the dog was not walked, did I care? Not one jot! I was cheering for Atlanta Burns the whole way. A messed up kid trying to make her way in the world with little in the way of guidance and support-I really hope we see a little more of the mother daughter relationship in the next few stories I really want to know what the deal is there-and trying to help others along the way.

There were a couple of teeny tiny proofreading errors but nothing serious even if they did momentarily jolt me out of story mode.

I will definitely be getting the next book in the series as soon as I can and keeping my eyes peeled for more to come.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Sleeping Princess

Wrapped up, warm and cozy in bed, a young woman awakens.

Rain lashes down the window, wind wuthering round the castle making the roof tiles rattle and shaking the window in its frame.

She groans, wraps the covers round her more tightly, and tries to go back to sleep. Surely no prince will come today.

It's been a hundred years, a few more hours won't matter.

So, I've missed a few days...oops. In my defence I have been busy, writing my novel, trying to start up freelancing, preparing for the festive season, and looking after the home and family.

On the other hand that really is no excuse. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Ordeal

The young girl ascends the stairs. Her mouth dry, her heart pounding, will she survive the ordeal to come? Her foot misses a step, her sweat slicked hand fails to grip the rail, she lands awkwardly bruising her knee.

Abruptly, the door at the top of the stairs opens,

"You're late." Snaps the young woman. "Hurry up!"

The girl rushes up the remaining stairs, stumbles at the top, and falls through the door landing at the feet of the young woman who, for the next two years, will be her leader, her guardian, and possibly her nemesis. Hopefully it won't come to that, she will perform well today, she will triumph and they will love her.

The room is small, cosy, slightly shabby, but homely and filled with elegant decorative touches. Four young women fill the room; one lounges in a window seat, beautiful, elegant, poised; another two are on a sofa, one serious and stern looking, the other, plumply pretty with a merry glint in her deep black eyes; the fourth is the woman who opened the door, tall, stunning, with masses of tightly curled hair falling about her shoulders in careless abandon. These are the ladies of the Lower Sixth, prefects who oversee the younger girls of the school. These are the people who subject every new girl to a terrifying ordeal.

The first day you get a note in your pigeon-hole:

Dear Nobody,

One week from today you will be summoned to the prefect's room, if you do not find it, or if you fail to attend you will be punished and will not receive your name.

When you arrive you will be expected to; sing the school song, in full,
                                                          recite the school prayer,
                                                                                            have memorised the school rules and be able to                                                                                      tell us randomly picked rules when we ask,
                                                                                        read passages from a book of our choosing,
                                                                    and sing a song of our choosing.

If you fail in one or more of these tasks you will be punished, if you fail all of these tasks you will not receive your name and will be "Nobody" for the duration.

Yours sincerely,
the Prefects.

No one tells you where the Prefects room is, you have to find it for yourself. They do, however, tell you in great detail about their ordeals and the kinds of punishments meted out by Prefects. Everyone agrees that teachers punishments are preferable to Prefects punishments.

A week later, your summons arrives, you have ten minutes from receiving the summons to get to the Prefects room, no more, regardless of where in the school or grounds you may be.

"Well? What are you waiting for child? Get on the table." says the elegant woman on the window seat.

The young girl gets to her feet and climbs onto the table, it is old and rickety and she does not like heights at the best of times. She is terrified.

"Sing child" says one of the Prefects and a book is lobbed at her from the direction of the sofa.

The girl opens her mouth and tries to sing but all that comes out is a nervous croak.

"You'll have to do better than that if you want to earn your name" One of them says with barely suppressed laughter in her voice.

The girl clears her throat and tries again. This time she manages, she sings the school song from start to finish in her beautifully clear soprano voice. Her Prefect, the one who opened the door, raises one eyebrow.

More books are buzzed at her.

"Now the Prayer, come on, get on with it." The voice says again.

The girl gets through the ordeal, in the end it wasn't nearly as bad as she had anticipated. When she walks through the door her Prefect whispers,

"Well done, you've earned your name back Stephanie."

Stephanie practically skips down the stairs eager to go and tell her classmates the good news.

As usual if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions then please do share them.


Monday, 9 December 2013

The Vixen

Deep in the forest, hidden in a tangle of brambles, there lies a hole. In that hole there lives a fox. A vixen to be precise.

This vixen is no ordinary fox, she is the genius loci of this place; the guardian spirit, and none dares enter without first seeking her approval, asking her permission.

No human feet have trod this path in decades. The vixen feels her strength waning and wonders what will become of this place when she is gone. She needs the power, the energy, she gains from visitors and her interactions with them. If she passes out of existence then this place will decay and crumble, the animals that rely upon it will die, and plants and insects that exist only in this fragile environment will pass out of the world forever.

She cannot allow this to happen, it is her sacred duty to protect the forest. She gathers the fading energies of the forest and sends out feelers into the wider world. Eventually she feels an energy that may help. Carefully, cautiously, she sends a picture laced with just the right amount of desire to the one who's energy she touched, encouraging him to come to the forest.

The vixen does not have to wait long before she senses the approach of the man. For the first time in years she leaves her den and goes to the edge of the clearing where the stones lie dreaming moss covered dreams.

The man is here, waiting at the edge of the clearing, his senses alert, his mind clear, his energy sending out tendrils, seeking permission to enter.

The vixen is pleased by this, the old ways are not entirely gone then, she thinks.

Permission granted the man enters. Not fully in touch with his energies, or not yet trusting in them, he uses dowsing rods to discover the work that needs done in this place. He does not realise that the work he does is secondary to his true purpose but no matter, he is here sending energy out to infuse the vixen, the stones, the very earth it's self and, what's more, he will return to this place many times and on some of those times he will bring others who will, in turn, bring more.

Balance is restored, life is returning. Satisfied the vixen returns to her den.

If anyone reading this has any comments, criticisms, or suggestions then please, feel free to share them.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Story a Day

When I started this blog it was to get as much practice writing as possible.

It struck me during NaNoWriMo that I've had the wrong focus on the blog. I've been writing random snippets, thoughts, snapshots of my life with the occasional flash fiction challenge courtesy of the mighty Chuck Wendig over at terribleminds.

If I'm to improve my writing then I need to focus on what I want to write - fiction -  so, with that in mind, from now on I'm going to try and write a piece of flash fiction or vignette a day. If anyone has any comments, thoughts or suggestions then please feel free to share them.

Here's the first offering:

The Christmas Lights

 I used to love December 1st. We’d all go into town together to watch the Christmas Lights being put on. It was amazing; there would be stalls selling food, drink, and Christmas gifts; street performers, music, and some lameo minor celeb to push the button and “switch on” the lights. It was a great night.

Last year that had all changed. Last year when the celeb pushed the button the lights came on illuminating dead bodies instead of reindeer and santa clauses. That year the fairy on top of the christmas tree had dripped red blood on the gifts below and the branches had been garlanded with intestines instead of tinsel. That year, when the button was pushed, an axe swung down cleaving the celeb’s head in two.

They never did find out who did it or why.

This year we aren't going into town, my family and I, this year we’re staying at home. Where it’s safe. We hope.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Well, I did it. I survived NaNo. I even managed to finish...the word count that is. My novel is still nowhere near finished but I am still working on it.

In the meantime I have decided to celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo by participating in the mighty Chuck Wendig's current flash fiction challenge

My couple of hundred words follows on from this; http://joebrewing.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/another-flash-fiction/.

I lay there vaguely enjoying the sensation of feeling again after having been numb for so long. I was pondering my next move - I’d heard a rumour of a woman in a nearby village who might be able to help me - when I heard voices calling in the still morning air. 

I moved quickly, careful not to disturb the cotton in my haste, on to my front bringing my knees up under me so I could spring up quickly if I needed to. As I did so my hand darted to the pile of clothes by my side and the slender yet deadly blade concealed beneath.

As the voices moved closer I sought the quiet place in my mind,the place where I could leave my self behind. I needed to disengage my emotions, to leave my humanity behind and find the monster within.
I had hoped to be able to leave that part of myself behind but it seemed I would have to hold onto it, for now.

I stood slowly, aware of my nudity and how it would affect my seekers, and held my blade out ready for whatever was thrown at me. Every sense on high alert.

“Over here. We’ve  found her” A voice called.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembering the Survivors

Today when I switched on the radio I found myself listening to the Remembrance Day service.

I like to listen and remember the sacrifice of those brave people who gave their lives for our freedom.

Today though, I found myself musing on my Father and my Grandfathers.  They all survived the wars they fought in.  My Father and my Grandfather, on my Mother's side, both fought in WW2 and my Father's Father served in WW1.

None of those men survived unscathed, my Father was blown up during the war and suffered for his whole life with what, I suspect, would now have been diagnosed as PTSD, as for my Grandfathers I cannot comment as I have no direct experience but I suspect that the legacies they received from their experiences were no less traumatic.

I grew up experiencing the after effects of my Father's experiences, the same effects that a whole generation, a whole two generations if you include the children of those who fought in WW1 grew up in the shadow of.  I would imagine that children of servicemen and women who see active duty now still grow up feeling those same after effects.

On this day of remembrance I think is is important not only to remember those who gave their lives for us, but also those who fought and returned alive but not necessarily intact.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

If you want something done...don't ask me, I'm writing!

Ok, I might be in danger of taking on too much, I've signed up for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.  This on top of the courses I'm doing at Coursera and EdX, my studies at Kitchen Witch, home edding the kids, and everything else.  Phew, I'm exhausting myself just thinking about it.

Still, I wouldn't have it any other way.  The house will probably get neglected for a while, but it's not like I'm exactly house-proud anyway so who cares?  Anyway, I'd best go I've got too much to be getting on with to be sitting around chatting.

See ya some time in December, probably.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lifelong learning

Something I have been an advocate of for many years is lifelong learning.

I first came across the phrase when I was involved with the WHALE Arts Agency in Wester Hailes in Edinburgh.  It resonated with me immediately, man being a learning animal and all, and stuck in my head.

I feel, for myself, that learning is a journey through life this is something highlighted in the unschooling world through the ironically titled Learn Nothing Day.

For many years now my learning experience has been intrinsically linked with that of my children and it has been an eye opening, and occasionally hair-raising, journey and one that I am very glad to have been and continue to be involved in.

Since I started writing I have been looking at ways to deepen my understanding of writing and my ability to write effectively.  With those objectives in mind I embarked upon some Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs.

I have, today, finished my first essay for the first of the courses I am currently enrolled in and I am quite proud of it, especially as this is the first piece of truly academic work I have done since dropping out of school at fifteen {I'm not counting the arts courses I did as they were vocational rather than academic}.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge - Song Title

Every week Chuck Wendig over at terribleminds posts a flash fiction challenge.  This weeks challenge?  Find a random song - that's your title, then you writes your story.  Me and my husband regularly go on musical journeys through Youtube frequently ending up with in some really random place, last night we ended at Inside by Stiltskin.



I keep screaming but no one hears me.

My name is Ana, the last thing I remember?  Partying. I was dancing, having fun, happy.  I remember being handed drinks, kissing someone, fingers on my lips slipping something in my mouth, after that it's a blur then...nothing.

I wake, screaming, to whiteness, bright lights, cool hands, and quiet voices.

Why does no one respond?  Why don't they acknowledge my pain?

"I'm terribly sorry" I hear.  "...persistent vegetative state..." I hear.  "...nothing we can do..." and sobbing, heart rending, gut wrenching, sobbing.

"Mum, mum"  I call but she doesn't hear me.  "Mum, I'm still here." I try again, my mother too lost in sorrow to sense anything.

In the days and weeks that follow people come to visit.  Some simply sit a while, unable to think of anything to say to my corpse like body, some tell stories or sing songs, anything to fill the oppressive silence, some tell me the minutiae of their lives.

For example; my sister Lesley "Well this morning when I went for my waking up pee I ended up having a poo...I mean how does that even happen?  I had my poo at 7 last night same as always and I didn't even have anything to eat after that so you tell me...where did it come from???"  I mean really is that the sort of thing you tell anyone even if they are in a coma?

Mum is there every day, she cries a lot, shouts at me sometimes.  "How could you do something like this to yourself you silly, silly girl." or "your poor father is breaking his heart, he thinks it's our fault, that we caused this somehow" or "drugs...how could you I thought we raised you better than that, I always knew you were wayward but hard drugs?"

Hang on a minute, what the hell?  Drugs?  Where did that come from?  I find out in dribs and drabs, a memory here, an off hand comment there.  I'd apparently taken, taken? Hah! Been slipped more like, some MDMA and I'd had a bad reaction to it.  I'd had a stroke, but by the time anyone found me the damage had been done and I'd slipped into a coma.

Oh. My. God!  That guy at the party.  The one I'd been dancing with.  He'd done this.  He'd slipped me something.  I'd been quite drunk at the time, normally if someone had offered me something I'd have refused, sure I smoke the odd joint, drink more than is good for me, once I may even have taken some magic mushrooms but I don't do chemicals.  But he hadn't offered, we'd been dancing, flirting, kissing and when he slipped his finger into my mouth I hadn't protested. It was nice, intimate, erotic even and I'd accepted it without a murmur.

Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.  There's a reason I don't mess with chemicals.  I've seen way too many people fucked up by them and now look!

My mum is breaking her heart, my dad blames himself, my sister is all smug satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that she is the good sister, that even if I do recover form this it's just one fuck up too many.  Well fuck that by the way!

I try screaming again, try to blink my eyes, move my fingers, my toes, twitch, anything, anything at all to draw someone's attention.  Nothing.  I give up.  Exhausted.

Exhausted? Hah, I spend all day, every day lying in bed, the nurses move me regularly to avoid bed sores, they have a fancy medical name for it, but bed sores is what they mean, and I do...Nothing.  I'm just here, trapped in my own body and unable to let anyone know.

Oh god, oh god, oh god.  What if I don't recover?  What if I never get any better?  Am I just going to be stuck in this body for the next fifty years unable to communicate with anyone?  Maybe my body will get used for sex by some unscrupulous male nurse like in that film...what was it?  Kill Bill, that was the one!  Good movie that.  Or maybe they'll switch off the machines that are keeping me alive, feeding me, hydrating me, breathing for me and I'll slowly starve to death, suffocate, drown in my own fluids?

Oh. Fuck.  They could do that.  They don't know I'm in here.  They think I'm just a body, a husk, an empty shell.  They'll want to save money, use the machines on someone with better odds of pulling through.  The NHS always need beds, you see it all the time on the news, bed shortages, funding crises, all that stuff.

I scream again and again and again, nothing.  Not even a glimmer.  Not one of my friends or family even seem to consider I might be trapped in here, even the medical professionals with their machines and charts and expertise notice nothing.

Eventually the visits trail off, people stop dropping in.  They all have jobs to go to, parties to enjoy, lives to live.  pretty soon it's just my family visiting, even they don't come as often.

Then one day, my mother.  God she looks frail.  She strokes my forehead, straightens my hair, like she used to when I was little.  She kisses me, holds me, I feel a tear land on my cheek, hers, my eyes have to be moistened for me.  Then she says "Goodbye love", squeezes my hand and leaves.  My sister is next she cries noisily all snot and tears everywhere before choking out "Bye Brat, I'm going to miss you."   Then more quietly "I love you".

That leaves daddy, my hero daddy, whom I don't remember visiting.  Not once.  He comes in slowly.  I am shocked at the sight of him.  He seems translucent, fragile as if he might shatter at the least touch.  He stands a long time just looking at me.  Then he touches my cheek, just once, a single tear runs down his face.  He turns to leave, glances back and sighs heavily and I know it's over.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A Butterfly Mind

So, it's been a few days that happens I'm easily distractable and I do have quite a few distractions!

For example; I have been busily trying to get started as a freelance writer
                     Joining an online writers community
                     Helping my sons explore the gargantuan world of minecraft
                     Watching the Smurfs with my daughter
                     Cleaning the loo {ugh!}
                     Cooking countless meals
                     Walking the dog
I could go on but I won't...and that's just today!

I have also started a flash fiction challenge which I will be posting soon.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Learning to let go?

I'm encountering a bit of a problem with this story writing malarkey.  I can't switch it off.  Even when I'm not actively writing I have plot and sub plot all tangled up with characters and potential locations swirling around in my head all the time.

This is definitely something I need to work on!

Currently reading "Games People Play - The Psychology of Human Relationships".  It's been hanging around my bookshelves for years and I just noticed it again the other day.  I figured it would help me with the characters in the book {there I go again, can't switch off see}.

Now I'm off to find a chalkboard so I can write out "Must learn to switch off" one hundred times!  Might work!? Even if it doesn't I'll be writing, writing and writing some more...right?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sunday? Huh!

What an icky, dull, dreich day it has been.  Drizzly and grey and totally uninspiring.  So much for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

That makes me sound a lot bluer than I feel.  I'm actually a lot less morose than I may come across, I visited The Green Witch in Aberdour today and that always cheers me up.  It's such a lovely wee shop, full of fascinating, pretty, useful things and the people are always lovely.  It cheers me up no end even if I do always come out poorer than when I went in!

I'm just about to start chapter 3 of my story, it's going really well so far.  One of my characters did something a little unexpected at the end of chapter 2 but I think I know how to get him back on track and it has added a really interesting new element to the story so I think it'll work out ok in the long run and this is only the first draft after all.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Getting back in the saddle

So, once upon a time there was a little girl.  She wrote stories, lots and lots of them, some of them were even quite good.

When she grew up she got a job as an actor in a small community theatre company, this involved doing lots of other things like acting as wardrobe mistress, creating and facilitating workshops and, occasionally, writing short plays and sketches.  It was a job she loved that involved all her favourite things.  She did other things too like working in a theatre in the Box Office, waitressing, temping, anything at all to pay the bills while still being able to continue with her first love.

Then she had children and got married and acting didn't seem so important, especially when school wasn't such a good fit for her eldest son and she started home educating him.

The girl stopped acting and she stopped writing, there were waaay too many other things to do; trips to museums, castles, parks, days out with H.E groups, working on the allotment and house, cooking, baking, knitting, spinning, playing, reading, etc, etc ad infinitum.

Then one day the children weren't so little, the eldest was on the verge of leaving home, the others were increasingly independent and all of a sudden she had some free time on her hands, she also had a story in her head that was bursting to come out.  One problem, she was out of practice so she decided the best way to get back into practice was to write, and write, and write some more.

So that's what this is, my attempt to get back in the saddle.

Now I have to go I have to feed the beasts...oops, I mean children.

Watch this space...